Utah gymnastics has been a national championship contender year in and year out for decades, frequently being one of the most dominant teams out west. The 2020 Red Rocks entered the season with a lot of questions, losing three of the programs best talents along with a historic coaching change. Despite this, the Utes haven’t lost a step, and in some cases, improved enough to cement themselves as a true contender for an eleventh national championship this season. Since opening the season with a 196.425, the team has improved each week, including a thrilling 197.550-197.325 victory over #12 Cal last week. Now, off a two week road stint, the Red Rocks returned to the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center with momentum on their side to take on the 21st ranked Oregon State Beavers.
Sydney Soloski continued her strong vault performance, opening the afternoon with a 9.825, followed by sophomore Cammy Hall’s electric 9.925, that featured an extra half twist, going into a blind landing that was stuck with near perfection and got the home crowd on their feet early on. As the first rotation continued, the Red Rocks continued to pile on high scores, highlighted by strong dismounts with anchor Kim Tessen eventually securing the events top spot with a 9.950. Utah closed the first rotation with a 49.450, topping their previous season high of 49.200 in the process.
Malice O’Keefe led off the Red Rocks on the bars with a team-low 9.725, hampered by a off-kilter dismount, the first such less-than-stellar dismount of afternoon for Utah. Scores continued to climb for the Red Rocks, with Emilie LeBlanc notching a 9.850 and Cristal Isa edging her out with a 9.875. In the five spot, Missy Reinstadtler rebounded from a team-low performance on the vault to leading the Utes with a stellar 9.925, helping give the Utes a 49.350 to close out the second rotation, ending out the Beavers by .525 before heading into the beam.
Heading into Saturday’s event, Utah was already ranked fourth nationally on the beam, a ranking that is sure to change by the end of the weekend thanks to a handful of stellar scores against Oregon State. Emlilie LeBlanc took the lead off spot for Utah, earning a 9.875 thanks to a solid performance that was hindered by a small balance check after the back handspring on the first tumbling pass. Utah’s dominance continued with O’Keefe, who earned a perfect 10.000 from one judge and a 9.950 from the other, giving her a combined team high of 9.975, which was followed by Cristal Isa’s 9.950 on the very next run, but Utah wasn’t finished reeling in the high scores, as Adrienne Randall secured a 9.925 on her routine, giving the Red Rocks a 49.600 on the event, just behind the season high set the week before against Cal of 49.625.
Unfortunately, the high scoring afternoon came crashing down once the team transitioned over to the floor. Cristal Isa’s final tumbling pass ended with a big slip that she attempted to hide by clumsily improvising the splits into her landing, resulting in a 9.150. Rebounding with a 9.850, Abby Pauslon’s routine looked to put Utah back on track, however Missy Reinstandtler’s run proved to be yet another setback for the Red Rocks. Making her home debut on the event, things started off well, with good control on her first pass while demonstrating pristine flexibility throughout, however her final pass ended a failed dismount coming out of a double pike, resulting in a 9.250. WIth two falls already working against Utah, the team was able to finish strong, with anchor Soloski leading the way with a 9.900, however the 48.700 final score was by far the lowest of the night, as the Utes closed out the competition with a 197.100 final score, .825 better than Oregon’s 196.275, continuing their undefeated season, with Cristal Isa claiming all-around honors with a total score of 38.850.
Utah will be back on the road for the next two weeks as they travel to Southern California to take on UCLA on February 23rd in a nationally televised meet on ESPN2, followed by a date with the Washington Huskies on March 1st.